Hi. I'm Claire Madgwick
I am a mother of two unschooled children ... ages 17 and 12 years. My son attended school in the UK for two years, from ages 5 to 7, and my daughter has never been to school. Our journey to unschooling took us along an entirely different path to that of Zakiyya’s family. Initially our approach was schooled, over the years we transitioned through the deschooling process and ended up where we are now as unschoolers. However, this deschooling process is likely to never entirely go away as my childhood was defined by my experience within the school system. In those first few months of homeschooling our learning took on a ‘school at home’ approach. This rapidly progressed into a form of eclectic homeschooling that we followed for a few years. During this phase in our journey I spent hours researching all types of ‘fun’ curriculums even going as far as to set up an online shop selling educational products. Yet on those occasions when I stopped, and really observed, I would see evidence of natural learning occurring around us all the time. I slowly began to let go and to trust. Then one day it dawned on me that we were unschooling and we haven’t looked back. Just when I feel I’ve got the hang of unschooling I learn something new and realise there is always more for me to learn.
In 2013 my daughter, then aged 9, and I decided to capture as much of her unschool learning as was possible. Each day, for the duration of that year, we jointly blogged about it on 365DaysLearning and tweeted it on @365DaysLearning. I am currently writing up that experience for a book, hoping to have it ready in time for the Learning Reimagined Conference.
Six years ago we attended HESFES (Home education Seaside Festival), the once largest European home education gathering held in the UK. Since then it has been a dream of mine to be a part of something along these lines here in South Africa. What I enjoyed most about HESFES was the connections made and the interactions experienced between us like minded families. My daughter and I spent the days immersed in the many fun activities on offer, learning new skills and meeting new friends. Every now and then I would pop into the conference tent and hear what was being presented, wishing I could spend more time listening and contributing, but with an easily bored six year old I had to make do with gathering snippets and chatting alongside other parents whilst learning a new skill. For the entire festival we rarely crossed paths with my son. He vanished every day, playing rounders, football and other games with his new friends.
A few years back Zakiyya and I began to explore the possibility of combining our two experiences, to develop a unique African gathering of like minded families, and individuals, gathering together over a few days to connect, share and learn ... and so the embryonic stages of the Learning Reimagined conference took hold.